May 31, 2020

Wearing the new dress

This is what the wax print shirt dress looks like when I wear it! I have to repeat, I'm really out of the habit of posing for pictures and I don't have a lot of patience for it anymore. As a result, there are just two pictures and they are not the best. On the other hand, they give a better idea of the real fit than those on the dummy.
Oh, and they show how well these faded bright colours work on me.

The back is important because I made a pattern choice there which worked out really well. I've been training for rock climbing for the past years and, as a result, the muscles in my shoulders, back and upper arms are now bigger than they ever were before. In fact, I am more muscular all round and obviously that has an impact on how my clothes fit. I am thinking about re-doing my slopers but I don't think now, when a lot of normal day-to-day rhythm isn't there, is the time. 
For this dress, I used my existing sloper but chose a back design to maximize room for arm movement: It has a back yoke which is placed higher on the back than the bottom points of the shoulder darts and all the remaining width from the darts at the back (bottom part of the shoulder dart and waist darts) has been converted to deep pleats under that yoke. The pleats fall more or less on the shoulder blades. Combined with the sleeve, which is a sort of half shirt sleeve, wider and with a shallower sleeve head than the tailored sleeve you draft with a bodice sloper, this gives great ease of movement without really compromising on look and shape. I think I will use this quite a lot...

Oh, if you are interested in doing this as an alteration but you can't make out how to based on my description, let me know in the comments (or email if Blogger won't let you comment). I could do a tutorial but it is a bit of work so I would like to know it would be of use to somebody.  

May 27, 2020

DIY t-shirt print

After reading the comments on my dress, I thought the next post should be one in which I wear that dress. And, even though I don't have a lot of patience for posing for pictures anymore, I planned to take pictures of a jumpsuit I made two weeks ago as well. But it rained for just about all of the long weekend (here in the Netherlands, we had last Thursday and Friday off). Maybe next weekend will be better.

For now, I though I would show you something else I made recently: a t-shirt with a print. Long-time readers may remember that I have made such things before (like this one, all the way back in 2010) and if you do, you will also have read my favorite trick for such things. 

The trick is very simple: Find an image you want on your t-shirt (online is easy, because you will have to print it out). It doesn't matter if you just want part of the image or if you want to combine things. If possible with the software you have, isolate and/or add together the bits you want on the computer. Mirror the image and print it out.
Now, trace all the elements you want with tailor's chalk and rub the chalked side on to a blank t-shirt. You should now have the fuzzy image on there in chalk which you can then copy in fabric marker.
When I made my earlier t-shirts, I could only buy coloured fabric markers for light fabric and I used a small jar of fabric paint in white for the prints on black-shirts. Now, I found a white fabric marker for light and dark fabrics at the hobby store (the brand is "panduro"), which made copying the print a lot easier.

The print itself is a line drawing of mountains based on one I found on the internet, with my new favorite German word in one of the more unusual fonts found in Illustrator. If you are reading this as a native German speaker, can you tell me if you know the word "Fernesweh"? E's German colleague didn't. 
I didn't make it up though, I heard it in the Rammstein-song "Radio" and it seemed like one of those cases in which the German language has a word for something which is described in several words in most other languages. "Fernesweh" is the longing/aching for far-away places, the direct opposite of "Heimweh" (= homesickness. In Dutch we call this "heimwee" which is clearly just borrowing the German word rather than making our own, especially if you consider that "Heim" is German for "home" while the Dutch word is "thuis"...). "Radio" was one of the songs I listened to a lot when making face masks last months and that word got stuck in my head. After all, with Corona crisis stopping all of us from traveling, longing for the far-away is just one of those minor issues of everyday life now. 
And in my case, that means longing for the mountains. I love mountains and I'm rock climber, living in one of the flattest countries on earth which has no rock at all. The Netherlands are a very small country so, under normal circumstances, it is easy to travel to Belgium, France or Germany or even a bit further to Austria, Switzerland or Italy to get one's mountain-fix. But not now. 
Last year, I spent the first week of May climbing in the Frankenjura, in southern Germany and that is the region I most often think about when dreaming about what I would like to do in these long, sunny weekends. So, this print seemed appropriate. 

May 19, 2020

New dress!

As you might expect, I didn't spend all my sewing time on substraction cutting these past weeks. Of course I also made some things I can really wear! Oh, and I made another shirt for E as well. Short-sleeved men's shirts are so much quicker to make than long-sleeved ones...

I thought this would be the most interesting item to show to you. 
Unfortunately, it doesn't fit the dummy anywhere near as well as it fits me. This dummy was given to me by a friend a few years ago. It's basically a display dummy for a shop. I was happy to have it because unlike my second-hand adjustable dummy, this one has a body I can stick pins in. Maybe it is lucky that I didn't get around to using it much for draping because its shape is at least as far off as the other one's. 
And I didn't have an opportunity to take pictures until late in the afternoon and the light isn't great...

Anyway. I do actually really like this dress. 
I bought the fabric as African wax print at the market but it really is a rather cheap copy of the real thing (which I realized before I bought it but it was quite cheap so I decided to take the risk). It's not even cotton but a bit of a mystery blend. When I bought it, the fabric was stiff like thick paper and the print was very bright. I washed it with fabric softener and this is how it came out. It has a rather nice drape but the colours ran like crazy. That was last summer. I was a bit put off by how much the fabric had faded and left it in the stash for months. This spring, when the weather was getting warmer, I had another look at it and decided those faded colours would probably work quite well on me. 

I decided to use the entire piece of fabric (African wax print, and its imitations, is usually sold in cut lengths of 6 yards. The fabric width is about 1 to 1.10 meter) for one garment. So, of course, that would be a dress. I have made lots of 1950's style dresses in the past, width past-the-knee skirts but somehow, I thought this dress would look better with a long skirt. 
So, it became a shirtwaist with a full length, half-circle skirt. It has short sleeves and a convertible collar. At the back, all the width from the darts was shifted into those deep pleats under the yoke. That allows for some glorious room for movement without compromising on shape. 
The overall effect feels a bit 1970's but that's fine with me. 

Oh, by the way, I used my favorite kind of hem for a short shirt sleeve. It's an easy trick with a mirrored hem which gives a turn-up-like look. If it is not obvious to you how to do this and you would like to know, say so in the comments and I'll make a tutorial next time I use it (which should be fairly soon, with a lot of short-sleeve-weather yet to come). 

May 14, 2020

Little experiments 2

And here are the other little dresses!

For the third one, I used the simple bodice placement again but this time there is much more distance between the holes which are sewn together. And those holes are spaced diagonally.

Result: not so great. These connected holes take in so much fabric that it is hard to even get into the dress. And once again, the result is quite freaky.

Dress number four. Less fabric, just "2 meters" but again, I cut the bodice pieces too small. Back bodice in the usual position, front bodice at a 45 degree angle. Only one set of holes but again far apart.

Very different front view. I kind of like having both fabrics on display there. On the other hand, the bodice really pulls to the side and once again, the amount of fabric caught in the connection of the holes doesn't leave enough room for movement.

Dress five, angled bodices again but much simpler hole placement. I started out with one set of holes but when I had sewn that, the light-coloured part of the skirt was still way too long so I added an extra set in that. I just don't remember exactly at what angle.

The result is not bad. The bodice has the same pulling issues as number four and it is, again, easy to see why. If you lay these dresses flat on the table, the skirts basically goes sideways. I wonder how they would be behave in real life. 

As I told you in the previous post, I messed up the scale of the bodice pieces in all but the first tiny dresses. That means I can't really draw conclusions about the amount of fabric I will need based on these. On the other hand, I still learned some valuable lessons. My first full scale attempt at substraction cutting taught me not to make very long connecting side seams and not to place holes close to the hemline. My small scale experiments warned against catching large amounts of fabric in those holes. 
Of course, the dress shapes all look a bit more extreme on this scale. The fabric I used was linen and although the pale stuff is quite soft, the purple has a bit of body. To get this super-sculptural effect on full scale, you would have to use something like denim. A softer fabric should give a more subtle effect.

I'm not sure where to go from here yet. I might make that quarter scale bodice after all and try again with that or I may try and make a full size dress using the set-up of the second dress. I think number five also has potential but I'm not so sure about the way to bodice pulls to the side. 
If I make a full-size dress, I won't use the same basic top shape again. I think I will make something which will look more like my usual dress bodices. After all, there is no reason why you can't use darts, sleeves or a back yoke in combination with substraction cutting... 

May 13, 2020

Little experiments in subtraction cutting 1

Didn't I promise you tiny dresses? Quarter scale dresses I made to try out subtraction cutting? Here they are!

I have to start with one big disclaimer: The proportions on most of them are off, sometimes way off because I was lazy and didn't make quarter size bodice pieces. I just sort of free-handed the shapes which got smaller with each tiny dress. So most of my tiny dresses don't actually allow me to calculate how much fabric I would need for a wearable version. However, they still taught me a lot about what does and does not work with this technique.

If you have read anything about subtraction cutting, you will know that you mark your bodice pieces somewhere in the middle of the fabric, you connect them and cut out the negative space surrounding them. And then you also cut pairs of holes large enough for your hips to pass through. Those will be sewn together later, creating twists. I photographed all my fabric/pattern lay-outs as well as the tiny dresses with the hope of learning what does what.
I will include red lines on the lay-out pictures to show you what goes where and show you front, back and side(s) of the dresses.

First dress: Bodice in the simplest set-up with the back towards the horizontal seam and the front facing it. Try-out of different ways of shaping the side seam (angle or curve at the bottom of the bodice). Two sideways displacements and one simple one, high up on the back piece.
Lesson: Don't do that. It doesn't work. You get a crazily bundled up knot of fabric which would be both uncomfortable and unflattering to wear.

Second dress: Back to basics. Bodice pieces in the same place but this time I decided on the sharp angle between the bodice and the connecting side seam. Holes which will be sewn together close to each other. 

Result: That's more like it! It's like a modern bustled ball gown. I'll just have to figure out what to do with that very uneven hemline (I don't mind hi-low but this is just crazy). Oh, and I caught myself trying to shift the bottom of the skirt the whole time so I'd better line up those two sets of holes. 

One thing you can see in both dresses is the difference made by the side seam treatment: the angled seam created a more defined waistline. Of course, because you simply can't find quarter weight fabric, the result is a bit exaggerated in scale model dresses like these.
I more tiny dresses to show you, but too many pictures would make this post too long and it's getting late. I'll be back with more tomorrow!

May 7, 2020

That 1950's sweater

Ok, I know I said I wouldn't do this... but after two posts about making this kind of thing, I thought I should show you what it looks like when worn.
My patience for posing has decreased quite a bit and I have lost my appetite for stern faces. So, this was the best picture I took.

May 5, 2020

Sew your own 1950's t-shirt

So, you've made your pattern, now you can start cutting and sewing. 
You can basically use any kind of knit fabric for this pattern although I wouldn't recommend really flimsy, very stretchy kinds of jersey. Because this pattern actually has ease, you can use those odd knits which hardly stretch at all (you can sometimes find those on the bargain table of your fabric store...). When I use a fabric like that, I cut the top a bit wider by adding 1 cm between the fold of the fabric and center back/front.

When cutting, center back and center front should obviously be placed on the fold. The straight grain line on the sleeve is that vertical help line you drew. And I don't think I have to tell anyone that you can fold your fabric differently than just in half if that makes cutting more economical... Just make sure the folds are straight, preserving the straight grain (which is not really the right term in a knit, but you know what I mean.

Now, the sewing starts. I usually use the serger straight away on a knit fabric but you could also use a stretch stitch on your sewing machine.

The first thing to sew is that neckline.

I've made this top with and without fusible interfacing in the neckline and my choice in the matter depends on the fabric. If it is likely to roll, interface. If not, you can do without. The interfacing gives the neckline a more defined edge, without is a bit softer. Both work well.
If you use interfacing, use quite a thin variety which is suitable for knits (this will still reduce the stretch by quite a bit so if you want to use it, make sure your neckline is big enough to let your head pass through without relying on stretch).

Finish the edges of the neckline facings.

Press the facings to the wrong sides of the bodice pieces.

Pin the shoulder lines, with the front facing in place. 

Fold the back facing over the front facing and pin through all layers. Make sure to remove any pins under the facing.

Sew the shoulder seams, including those facings.

Turn right side out and press on the inside. Now you have shoulder seams and a neatly finished neckline.

Insert sleeves. Pay attention when pinning, there is a difference between front and back of the sleeve.

Sew side seams and arm seams in one go.

Hem bottom edge en sleeves.


May 4, 2020

Make your own 1950's style t-shirt!

Do you like 1950's style cardigans, sweaters and the occasional t-shirt (those were not commonly used in ladies' wear yet)? Designs like this one?

Well, I do. Unfortunately, this is one of those styles which seems hard to translate to the present day. I have tried some original knitting patterns but the result was always disappointing. They are often a bit too short for me but what is worse, even if they're not, they won't sit well. The part from the waist down is usually knitted as a straight bit of rib knit. This means that although it will stretch over the high hip, it just creeps up. 
And it seems like such a nice day-to-day style, you know, to be worn without all the period accurate shape wear...

So, I did what I usually do. I tried to make a pattern to get the result I wanted. I took a bit of experimentation but I ended up with something I really like (the dummy doesn't do them justice...). The first two were made in winter, I used a fairly warm knit and gave them a nice high turtle neck. When the weather got warmer, I tried thinner fabrics and a different neckline (and different sleeve length, of course). And that neckline became my absolute favorite. 

If you have a tried-and-tested t-shirt pattern, making this pattern won't be difficult. However, it may require a bit of to get it exactly right for you. After all body proportions vary, as does posture and then we haven't even mentioned preferences.
I'll give you the pattern instructions in this post and I'll come back tomorrow with some extra information about fabric and construction.
Oh, and one more thing: my pattern pictures are not to scale. Proportions can be a bit off, in this case, they are on the sleeve. And unless I write otherwise, they are without seam or hem allowance.

All right. You should start with your tried-and-tested pattern. Preferably one with a marked waistline which is right for you and no darts. If yours has very straight bodice pieces, you may want to try your t-shirt on and check the fit at the waist, you might want to take the pattern in at the waistline to get a shape a bit like this. 

Now, if you are trying on the t-shirt anyway, have a careful look at the neckline. Does it sit perfectly or does it pull back it bit? Slightly gaping at the back neck while it sits high against your throat? It that is the case, you will need to make an alteration or my high, straight neckline will quite uncomfortable.

Put the pieces together at the shoulder line and draw a new shoulder line, mine was 1.5 cm to the front. Move center front and back as well and draw the new neckline (don't worry about getting it perfect, it won't be used in the end result).

Separate the pieces again mark a point 2 cm outside the under arm point (the point on the bodice where the armscye meets the side seam. If your pattern has quite narrow sleeves which pull into the armpits a bit, you may also want to drop this point by 1 or 2 cm.
Also mark a point 1 cm above and 1.5 cm out from the shoulder point. Draw the new shoulder lines like the blue ones in the picture.

Draw a new armscye. It should not cross the old one.

Now, slash both pattern pieces at the waistline and open up by 3 cm. Draw your new side seam from the under arm point to the lower waistline. 
Draw the bottom edge of the shirt. Mine is usually about 10 cm below the waistline but this is based on your preference. I also keep the bottom edge as straight as possible because I love to use fabrics with stripes for this design.

You can use the pattern like this if you prefer your usual neckline To get my favorite neckline, there is one more step:

Mark a point about half way on the shoulder line and draw a straight line from that point to center front and back. You want this line to be the same length on both front and back.

This neckline should be made with a cut-on facing. You make this by mirroring 4 cm over the line you just drew.

And now, you still need a sleeve pattern. The upper bodice is fairly loose fitting and so is the sleeve. This means you can get away with drafting a very easy pattern:

Draw a vertical line about as long as you want your sleeve to be. Square across at 9 cm below the top. 

Measure the front and back armscye are draw diagonal lines from the top of the vertical line to the horizontal one with those measurements.

Draw in the sleeve head. At the front, it should cross the help line at about 1/3, at the back at about 1/2. Measure the sleeve head and remove any excess length at the edges.

Draw the side seams, you'll want these to be fairly tapered.

Your pattern is now finished. Add seam and hem allowances to your preference.